Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
The key word in this commandment is the word “covet,” and then we get a list of things that we should not covet: everything that belongs to our neighbor.
Coveting “signifies an earnest and strong desire after a matter of which all the affections are concentrated and fixed.” The word covet also brings in the emotional aspect that deals with the sin of intention. In other words, this law deals with not only the action of man but also the heart of man.
There are some good things that we should covet, for example, Scripture tells us that we are to “covet earnestly the best gifts.” (1 Corinthians 12:31) In other words, we should earnestly desire or covet the things of God. Jesus brings out the same thought in the Sermon on the Mount where He makes clear the thoughts and actions of men addressed in God’s law.
The question that could be asked is: When is it wrong to covet? There are several things that we could think of:
- We could be moving towards covetousness when our thoughts are wholly taken up with the world. A simple test that we can take is where does our mind go when it is free from the task at hand; to the world or to the things of God?
- We can be moving towards covetousness when we take more pains getting what is of this world rather than what is of heaven.
- Our conversation can reveal the spirit of covetousness within us. John 3:31 “One who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth.”
It would seem that the root of covetousness is distrust in God’s providence. So it would seem that faith in God and His Word is the victory that will overcome and 1 John 5:4 states: “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
What is happening today is that since we have moved on from a Christian consensus to a humanistic one, this is now affecting our law laid down in our Constitution as well as God’s law.
With a Christian consensus there were absolutes and that gave us the base for making laws, but now law is becoming arbitrary. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “Truth is the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others.” In other words, what he was saying is that law is only what most people think at that moment of history and there is no higher law.
What this means in our society, especially here in the Western world is that law can be changed at any given moment of time to reflect the mood of the people. In other words, there are no absolutes, the standards are what the majority thinks. With this thought in mind we can now understand why the 10 Commandments are being removed from our public places because they stand for absolutes.
What is happening is that law becomes what a few people in government think it should be or what they think promotes the sociological and economic good of the people. In other words, God is out and man is in.
So we find that the moral judgments of the majority are now influenced by, or even overruled by the opinions of a small group of men and women. Values can be altered overnight at an almost unbelievable speed.
John Locke wrote an essay stating that knowledge and understanding come from sensory experience which gained wide acceptance among the so-called “Enlightenment Thinkers” as having some validity. This idea led to another idea that by being able to control the intake of sensory experience the contents of our minds could be manipulated, which in turn led to the belief that by controlling the impressions that we receive by legislation we can control what people learn and know. So this led to the belief that people can be improved, not by religion, but by legislation, and education became the prime factor in all of this. This is what led to the re-education camps of the 20th century as well as a social experiment by the Soviet Union. The new task of politics was to make man virtuous.
We can now look back at the dust-bin of history and what do we see? Soviet Union collapsed and that legislation failed. All of this is an attempt to gain what the Lord Jesus Christ gives us freely when we come to Him. We can become a new creature, but this life is found in Christ not in what man can do.
“And God spoke all these words.” These Commandments did not come from the inspiration of man, but by revelation from God. Yet we see how they have been downplayed in our societies worldwide. We are not saved by the law, but through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the law is given to protect our unalienable rights that come from God and not from the state.